Preventing Election-related Violence: Analysis from Civil Society

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought new tensions in countries and territories in every region of the world. Many governments have taken advantage of this crisis to increase their grip on power at the expense of civil liberties and human rights. This is having negative impacts on peace and stability, especially in countries affected by or at risk of conflict. Violence is often politically orchestrated, therefore it becomes particularly visible during electoral disputes.

In the framework of the Civil Society Dialogue Network (CSDN)[1], EPLO organised a policy meeting in October 2020, which brought together 30 participants, including representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) and officials from both the European Commission (EC) and the European External Action Service (EEAS). The objectives of the meeting were to: a) reflect on common forms of election-related violence (ERV); b) consider whether and how the risks of ERV have been exacerbated or have changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; and c) identify opportunities for preventive action considering the range of instruments at the European Union’s (EU) disposal and best practices from CSOs. The meeting also considered case studies from Bolivia, Ghana, Myanmar, and Sudan.

What follows is a summary of the key points and recommendations which were made by CSO participants.

  • The EU should ensure that its approach to ERV covers any form of lethal or non-lethal act of violence directed against electoral stakeholders, and that engagement is consistent throughout the whole electoral cycle. A multistakeholder approach, including dialogue across and between CSOs, security forces, media, political actors and institutions, should be adopted.
  • Co-operation between international and local observers should be encouraged, while ensuring that local ownership is maintained. The EU should work with local stakeholders (including political parties, security forces, and community leaders) not only to get a better understanding of the local context, but also to foster virtuous activities and practices to strengthen the electoral process and increase its credibility.
  • The EU should work to create favourable conditions for preventing ERV. This includes supporting peace and civic education, cooperating with media actors, and addressing disinformation and hate speech.
  • Since the youth represents the bulk of the electorate in most of the countries affected by ERV, the EU should pay particular attention to young people and support efforts to strengthen their role in electoral processes.
  • Since women and minorities are disproportionally affected by ERV, the EU should ensure that its approaches to the prevention of ERV are gender-sensitive and address systemic discrimination and inequality.
  • While the international community’s policies and strategies for preventing ERV generally seem to be aligned with needs and priorities of local stakeholders and international CSOs, the allocation of their funding does not seem to follow the same logic. The EU should work to reduce the gap between policy commitments and funding. Exploiting the breadth of its diplomatic network, the EU should also play a decisive role in coordinating like-minded international actors working on preventing ERV.

These recommendations are explored in more detail in the report from the meeting, which is available here. The report also includes key points on ERV in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and analysis from the country-specific case studies.


[1] The Civil Society Dialogue Network (CSDN) is a mechanism for dialogue between civil society and EU policy-makers on issues related to peace and conflict. It is co-financed by the European Union (Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace and managed by the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), a civil society network, in co-operation with the European Commission (EC) and the European External Action Service (EEAS). The fourth phase of the CSDN will last from 2020 to 2023. For more information, please visit the EPLO website.

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